The Yamaha CS-80 Synthesizer

The Yamaha CS-80 is considered by many to be one of the greatest analog synthesizers ever created.

The CS-80 is a polyphonic analog synthesizer released in 1977, and discontinued in 1980. It featured true 8-voice polyphony (with two independent synthesizer layers per voice), as well as a primitive (sound) settings memory based on a bank of micropotentiometers).

Just as important, though, are the CS80’s expression features, such as a splittable keyboard that was both velocity-sensitive (like a piano’s) and pressure-sensitive (“after-touch”). Unlike most modern keyboards, though, the aftertouch could be applied to individual voices rather than in common.

A ribbon controller also allowed for polyphonic pitch-bends and glissandos. This can be heard on the Blade Runner soundtrack by Vangelis, which is full of CS-80 goodness.

On the negative side for the Yamaha CS80, it’s one of the heaviest synthesizers ever made – weighing in at over 200lb (91kb). The CS80 is also known for its unstable tuning and difficulty in servicing.

Notable players include Vangelis, Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney, Kate Bush, Toto and Peter Gabriel.

If you’ve used the Yamaha CS-80, leave a comment with your thoughts!

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6 thoughts on “The Yamaha CS-80 Synthesizer

  1. I’ve played a CS-80 before, when I worked at Rainbow guitars in AZ.
    We also had an Oberheim Expander, & I played with that monster more. CS-80 is not on my list of wants (unless it’s a crazy deal like when I bought an Arp Odyssey for $60). Lots of CS-80 content here on Synthtopia though, must be a lot of CS-80 fans here.

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  2. CS-80 is fantastic synth – but would not want one because of cost and reliability.

    Is there a modern synth that has similar control features and sound quality?

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  3. The CS80 is the absoulte ultimate from a performance point of view. It becomes almost and extension of the body (and possible the mind)..?! I have two of them – and I have had to fix faults and service them, I have dismantled them and had them in bits – so I kind of know them intimately now and I would not part with them for anything. My answer to the first comment on here is no, there is no substitute – Arturia or otherwise – and there never will be…

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  4. Some great CS-80 players mentioned above; but that short list doesn't mention Eddie Jobson who used the CS-80 to great effect with the group UK. Their self titled first album had some stunning CS-80 electronics that still sound good (to my ears anyhow) today.

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  5. The greatest synth ever,,i have one and love the deep in it, its like playing a guitar with all the control, its all in the keys,,pressure, ribbon.
    Its alive and i have had allmost all synths there is over the last 25 years, this is the real deal.

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